Project: Canvas Bag

I recently developed a yen to make a multi-functional tote bag.

I had specific ideas in mind–after all, there IS such thing as too big.

from designershandbags

And the late night infomercials (don’t judge me) about the Buxton Bag have proven that yes, you can have too many pockets.

from eeendeavors

And let’s face it…most tote bags are ugly.

from cafepress

I knew I wanted the body of the bag to be a medium grey, but I wasn’t completely sold on any one handle color. So El Guapo and I hit the fabric store and I ended up with 2 different colors–I chose a cream colored fabric and he somehow convinced me that teal was a good idea.

I was a little iffy about the teal–

–I mean really, teal and grey? Not the first thing to come to mind when you say “colors that go together.”

from 123rf

But I trusted his judgement (and he’s pretty persuasive).

So I made 2 bags. Identical except for the straps. And the cream one has more pockets.

I thought that since the teal one was more interesting to look at, I’d share this one with you.

First, gather your materials.

I used:

  • 1.25 yards of 45 in. grey cotton fabric for the body
  • 7 inches of 45 in. teal canvas fabric for the straps


I prepared the straps first.

Cut the handle fabric into 2 3.5 in (ish) wide strips. The length should be the length of the fabric.

cut the straps

Now cut the body of the bag. Mine was 22″ x 17″. Yours can be anything you’d like.

cut the body of the bag

I did 17 x 22

In order to make the bag sturdy, I wanted to use 2 pieces of fabric for each side. So I cut out 4 pieces.

cut 4

Now that you’re done cutting, crawl off the floor (or step away from your cutting table if you’re fancy enough to have one) and pin the edges of the straps.

Just turn in the edge of each side twice, so that there’s no raw edge.

pin the edges of the straps

Do it to both sides.

both sides

I insert my pins perpendicular to where the seam will be so that I don’t have to remove the pins as I sew. The needle just skips over the pins. Most of the time.

Okay, now sew the edges.

sew each edge

After finishing both straps, work on any pocket you want to include. I make a pretty simple pocket–just a square with the edges hemmed.

pocket--edges sewn

Then pin your pocket(s) to the piece of fabric that you want it to be located on in the bag.

pocket sewn pinned onto inside piece

Sew the 3 appropriate sides. The beauty of an inside pocket is that no one can judge your uneven seams.

sew pocket onto inside piece

Aight, now it’s time to attach the handles. Pin each one to the outside piece of fabric. You should still have 4 separate grey (body) pieces at this point.

Note the double pins at the top of the bag (or the right of the picture). That’s where I stopped sewing on each strap. You ‘ll see why in a second.

pin straps to outer pieces

Now sew each strap onto it’s respective outside body piece.

strap sewn to outer piece

Now it’s time to join the inside and outside pieces. Place the wrong sides together (straps and pockets on the outside).

put outer and inner pieces together

Turn the joined top edges over twice and pin.

top edge pinned

Now sew the edges down. And pull the handles out of the way so that they don’t get sewn.

I like to do a double seam for strength and aesthetics.

top edge sewn--2 rows of stitching

This is why you left some clearance when attaching the straps. Get it? (if you don’t, leave a comment or email me. But study the picture below first. A thousand words and all that.)


Now it’s time to sew the top of the handle onto the body of the bag. This stitching will be visible from both sides, so make it nice.

attaching top of handle

To ensure that the handle is as strong as possible, I sewed an X onto each top juncture where the handle meets the top of the bag.

stitching to secure handle

Once the handles are all fully attached, sew the 3 sides of the bag together–right sides together (this means that the handles will all be on the inside).

The bottom corners should look like this:


Now to give the bag some shape, pull the sides of the bottom corners together and sew a seam to look like this:

sew corner

If you’re committed and satisfied, go ahead and cut the excess corner fabric off.

cut excess

It should end up looking like this:


At this point you can serge the inside seams (if you’re lucky enough to own a serger/know someone who does). The Tailor has one at his place of employment and was kind enough to serge my seams.

My tote ended up looking like this:

finished product

And apparently teal and grey is a great color combination. Well done, El Guapo.

suck it, martha.

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Categories: Projects


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2 Comments on “Project: Canvas Bag”

  1. July 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Looks great! The teal makes it.

  2. July 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Thanks! Not my idea, but I’m glad I did it.

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